As of 2022, the average age of all ships in the world merchant fleet was just over 20 years. General cargo ships were the oldest type of vessels, with an average age of around 27 years. Some 68 percent of the world's cargo ships were older than 15 years, in contrast with about 21 percent of bulk carriers.
Ship scrapping activity worldwide
Ship scrapping is the activity of dismantling old vessels to recycle the metals. Before the existence of ship scrapping, companies simply abandoned or sank the older vessels to get rid of them. From 2013 to 2021, the number of commercial ships dismantled globally almost halved. Bangladesh and India dismantled more than 50 percent of the total number of ocean-going commercial vessels in 2021. Most of the ship scrapping activity is carried out in countries where the labor market and environmental regulations are weak.
Impact of COVID on ship scrapping
The economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic deeply impacted the global economy, leading to the worst decline in industrial production over the recent century. This had severe implications for all industries across the globe at varying degrees. Since the end of 2019, global ship demolition activity has increased sharply as a consequence of higher fuel prices and adverse market conditions. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the monthly demolition activity peaked at 2.3 million deadweight tons in February 2020. This trend is expected to continue throughout 2020, as owners face the increased underutilization of vessels brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides, as a result of strict lockdown measures across the globe, the impact of the COVID-19 crisis persists. Over 12 million deadweight tons of commercial fleet were delivered in January 2020, which declined to roughly 5.9 million deadweight tons by March 2020. Although some countries have started to make progress in normalizing economic and social activity again, the recovery to previous levels could take longer than expected.
Age distribution of the world merchant fleet in 2022, by vessel type
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UNCTAD. (November 29, 2022). Age distribution of the world merchant fleet in 2022, by vessel type [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved December 02, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/1102442/age-of-world-merchant-fleet-by-vessel-type/
UNCTAD. "Age distribution of the world merchant fleet in 2022, by vessel type." Chart. November 29, 2022. Statista. Accessed December 02, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1102442/age-of-world-merchant-fleet-by-vessel-type/
UNCTAD. (2022). Age distribution of the world merchant fleet in 2022, by vessel type. Statista. Statista Inc.. Accessed: December 02, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1102442/age-of-world-merchant-fleet-by-vessel-type/
UNCTAD. "Age Distribution of The World Merchant Fleet in 2022, by Vessel Type." Statista, Statista Inc., 29 Nov 2022, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1102442/age-of-world-merchant-fleet-by-vessel-type/
UNCTAD, Age distribution of the world merchant fleet in 2022, by vessel type Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1102442/age-of-world-merchant-fleet-by-vessel-type/ (last visited December 02, 2022)